All posts by Tilly Collins

Dr Tilly Collins is in the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London, UK, and also works at Harper Adams University as an Entomologist (creepy crawly specialist). She supports Queens Park Rangers football club.

Climate change: what does science predict? What will happen to mankind?

Renewable Power of Destruction by Stéfan, on FlickrWell, that is a great question, and it is one that lots of people have been working very hard to answer for quite some time.

Although there has been lots of variability in the climate since the earth first cooled, much of the climate change that we now see is caused by we humans emitting ‘greenhouse gasses’ into the atmosphere. This is a broadly-held belief amongst scientists supported by very strong evidence. Very few people now disputed that we are causing climate change.

The general scientific predictions are that the earth will warm globally (Australia had to add two new colours to their temperature maps last year for 52 and 54°C!). However, this warming will not be the same everywhere, with some areas being affected more than others. Long-observed patterns, such as summers being sunny, will become less predictable.  The overall warming of the earth will trigger a rise in sea levels. There will also be an increased likelihood of extreme events such as heavier rains and flooding; and longer, harsher droughts.

There will be patterns of species change as life responds to the new conditions. Hence, many people are very concerned about what effects this will have on agricultural production. Pests and diseases will move to different regions and many farming areas are expected to become drier.

The future that all this holds for mankind is another question. Much of it will depend on how we respond to it and what we do now.  If we are proactive and do manage to get greenhouse gas emissions down, the effects might be curtailed. If not then we may be chasing our tails trying to adapt to a very uncertain future.

There are some excellent reads on the subject: The IPCC publishes clear summaries of its reports and  Sir Nicholas Stern’s 2006 review focusses on how CC will affect economies and economics.

Answer by Tilly Collins

Question from Gustavo Gómez via Twitter

Image: Stéfan, on Flickr

Article by Tilly Collins

March 4, 2014

Dr Tilly Collins is in the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London, UK, and also works at Harper Adams University as an Entomologist (creepy crawly specialist). She supports Queens Park Rangers football club.


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Do GMOs pose any risk to consumers?

Miniature food - Raspberries and Blackberries by PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast, on FlickrAny risk to consumers from eating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is extremely small – if not immeasurably so.  We are fortunate to have very strong food safety regulations. The rules governing this area are very stringent and carefully designed to safeguard us from harm.

In the early days of GMOs, many people became very worried about the dangers of the actual genetic engineering technique, of the genes that might be moved and of the addition of ‘marker genes’. In addition to a specific gene being moved into an organism’s DNA, ‘marker genes’ are also moved. These additional genes help to identify which plants (mostly), fungi or animals (rarely) have been successfully changed. New ‘marker genes’ now exist that are mostly considered completely harmless, thus allaying these early fears. Furthermore, technology has improved, meaning it now much easier to precisely identify genetically modified organisms.

The GMOs in our food chain are very well tested, and the genetic changes we make often allow us to use much less pesticide or herbicide in the growing of the crop, leading to environmental benefits.  For other crops, like ‘golden rice’ which has extra vitamins, the GM technology is deliberately used to reduce malnutrition and the serious long-term health consequences of poor nutrition in developing countries.

Now we worry much less about possible health risks; the concerns surrounding GMOs are mostly commercial: people worry about how the big biotech companies might monopolise seed supplies or have too much influence.

Answer by Dr Tilly Collins

Question sent via Facebook

Image Source: PetitPlat – Stephanie on Flickr

Article by Tilly Collins

January 20, 2014

Dr Tilly Collins is in the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London, UK, and also works at Harper Adams University as an Entomologist (creepy crawly specialist). She supports Queens Park Rangers football club.


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